Putin vows to boost population in Russia

Putin vows to boost population in Russia

Putin vows to boost population in Russia

AFP photo

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin yesterday vowed to reverse Russia’s demographic decline and boost its population to 154 million as he ramped up his re-election campaign in the face of protests.

In a new campaign web article Putin reeled off a list of social policies that he said could reverse a demographic decline and boost Russia’s current population that has now dwindled to nearly 143 million and which he said risked falling to just 107 million.

“In a global sense we are facing the risk of turning into an ‘empty space’ whose fate will not be decided by us,” Putin said in an article published on his campaign website.

“If we manage to formulate and implement an effective complex people-saving strategy, Russia’s population will go up to 154 million,” he said, Agence France-Presse reported. By contrast, he said, if the authorities do nothing to combat the demographic crisis, the country’s population would fall to 107 million by 2050.

“The historic price of the choice between action and inaction is nearly 50 million human lives over the next 40 years,” he said in the piece, his fifth campaign article since January.

After serving two consecutive presidential terms between 2000 and 2008 and a term as prime minister, Putin is seeking a third term in the March 4 presidential election. He is, however, facing the worst legitimacy crisis of his 12-year rule, with tens of thousands taking to the streets in protests since last December. Russia’s future president will have to tackle an acute demographic crisis exacerbated by unhealthy lifestyles, blatant disregard for safety protocols and traffic accidents, which all contribute to high death rates.

Rivals face pressure

Meanwhile, European election observers say presidential hopefuls running against Putin face “biased” reports by Kremlin-controlled media and constant government pressure, the Associated Press reported.

Tiny Kox, who heads the Council of Europe mission to Russia, said Feb. 11 that all four candidates complain that Putin’s government is using its “administrative resources” to influence voters, while Russian television extensively covers Putin’s activities.

The candidates are Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov, ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, socialist A Just Russia leader Sergei Mironov and billionaire tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov. Other politicians have been denied registration in the race on technicalities.